1 Protective practices for staff in their interactions with children and young people Guidelines for staff working or volunteering in education and care settings
2 Protective practices for staff in their interactions with children and young people Guidelines for staff working or volunteering in education and care settings
3 Grateful acknowledgment is made of material provided by: Catholic Education Office Diocese of Parramatta Protective practices for staff in their relationships with students, 2004 June 2005 Revised April 2009 Revised September 2011 For further information, contact: Department of Education and Children s Services 31 Flinders Street Adelaide South Australia 5000 Catholic Education South Australia 116 George Street Thebarton South Australia 5031 Association of Independent Schools of South Australia 301 Unley Road Malvern South Australia 5061 National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry Title: Protective practices for staff in their interactions with children and young people : guidelines for staff working or volunteering in education and care settings / Department of Education and Children s Services, Catholic Education South Australia, Association of Independent Schools of South Australia. ISBN: (pbk.) Subjects: Children Services for South Australia. Child welfare South Australia. Children Institutional care South Australia. Other Authors/ South Australia. Department of Education and Children s Services. Contributors: Catholic Education Office (Adelaide, S. Aust.) Association of Independent Schools of South Australia. Dewey Number: Produced by: Child and Student Wellbeing, Department of Education and Children s Services Edited by: Gunta Groves Designed by: She Creative Pty Ltd
4 Foreword These guidelines form part of a set of child protection policies that have been developed through collaboration between the South Australian Department of Education and Children s Services, Catholic Education South Australia and the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia. The government and non-government education sectors are committed to establishing child protection standards that are consistent across all South Australian education and care environments. provides clear advice to adults for the establishment of positive, caring and respectful relationships with children and young people in education and care settings. The main intent of this document is to safeguard the emotional and physical wellbeing of children and young people by promoting in adults an enhanced understanding of appropriate relationship boundaries. In respecting these boundaries, staff can feel confident about meeting their responsibilities to children and young people and meeting the expectations of the professional communities in which they work. Since their release in 2005, the guidelines have been positively received and utilised by education and care leaders across the government and non-government sectors. This third edition provides revisions reflecting legislative and other reforms at state and national levels, mainly in connection with child care. Following these guidelines will contribute to safer, happier and more successful education and care environments for all the people who learn and work in them. Keith Bartley Chief Executive Department of Education and Children s Services Paul Sharkey Director Catholic Education SA Garry Le Duff Executive Director Association of Independent Schools of SA
6 Contents Glossary 6 Relevant convention, law and policy 7 Legal issues and professional boundaries for adults working or volunteering with children and young people 8 Duty of care 8 Professional boundaries 8 Legislation 10 Guidance for staff in managing professional boundaries 11 Working in country/local communities 11 Using social networking sites 11 Working one-to-one with children and young people 11 Managing privacy expectations 12 Conducting home visits 12 Family day care 13 Boarding houses 13 Staff responsibilities in responding to behaviour 14 Behaviour of staff towards children and young people 14 Behaviour of children and young people towards staff 14 Appropriate physical contact 16 Appropriate physical contact by a staff member to assist or encourage a child or young person 16 Good practice with school-age children and young people 16 Good practice with children, birth to school age 16 Non-physical intervention in managing behaviour 17 Physical restraint where a child or young person s or adult s safety is threatened 17 Safe practice when using physical restraint 17 Working with children and young people with additional needs or disabilities 19 Cultural considerations 20
7 6 Glossary For the purposes of this document the following definitions apply. Staff Site Site leader Children/ young people Parents employees, professional service providers, other paid education and care participants, tertiary students, and volunteers all schools and preschools and associated boarding facilities, alternative education centres or off site learning programs, out of school hours care and vacation care services, the home of a family day care educator, children s centres and child care centres the individual who has responsibility for the welfare of children and young people on that site; for example, the principal, director, manager or family day care educator supported by his/her coordinator; or the person to whom the site leader has delegated relevant authorities all children and young people enrolled at or attending the education and care sites as defined in this document adults who have the parenting responsibility for children and young people, including biological parents, step-parents, legal guardians and extended family members such as grandparents Note: Family day care Where the context permits and having appropriate regard for the unique in home care provided, family day care educators should use the discussions applying to staff in this document to guide their actions and behaviour. References to site leader should be understood to mean those circumstances where the family day care educator would consult with or, as appropriate under conditions of approval, report to and take direction from the family day care coordinator.
8 7 Relevant convention, law and policy United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Law Information Sharing Guidelines Child Protection Curriculum Responding to problem sexual behaviour in children and young people National Safe Schools Framework National Quality Agenda The Convention enshrines the entitlement of all children, regardless of race, colour, sex, religion or nationality, to be protected from sexual abuse, to receive special help if they are abused, to have their opinions heard about matters that affect them, to receive and share information, and to be treated with dignity if disciplined. Relevant legislation includes: Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) defines child abuse, mandates staff in education and care environments to report child abuse and neglect and requires all organisations providing education, child care or residential services wholly or partly for children to comply with principles of child safe environments. Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) defines illegal criminal behaviour. Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) defines sexual harassment and provides a complaint process through the Equal Opportunity Commission of South Australia. Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) defines sexual harassment and provides a complaint process through the Australian Human Rights Commission. Teacher Registration and Standards Act 2004 (SA) establishes and maintains a teacher registration system and professional standards for teachers such that the profession is represented by individuals who are competent and fit and proper persons to have the care of children. South Australia s operational framework for the sharing of information across government and relevant non-government organisations in promoting the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and their families. The sector/site-approved teaching program for learners from early to senior years that addresses, age appropriately, the central ideas of respectful relationships, the right to be safe, protective strategies and recognising and reporting abuse. Guidelines for staff in education and care settings to assist them in responding effectively to incidents of problem sexual behaviour involving children and young people. National principles for the promotion of student wellbeing through safe, supportive and respectful teaching and learning communities. National Agenda to be adopted by the states in cooperative model legislation from 1 January 2012 and which describes and regulates the quality of early childhood education and care and school age care through the National Quality Framework which includes the National Quality Standard and rating system.
9 8 Legal issues and professional boundaries for adults working or volunteering with children and young people Duty of care In the education and care context, Duty of Care is a common law concept that refers to the responsibility of staff to provide children and young people with an adequate level of protection against harm. It is usually expressed as a duty to take reasonable care to protect children and young people from all reasonably foreseeable risk of injury. The question of what constitutes reasonable care in any given case will be determined objectively by a court and will depend on the individual circumstances of each case. The courts have found that the standard of care owed by education and care providers to children and young people is very high. In their relationships with children and young people, staff are required to ensure that the physical and emotional welfare of children and young people is safeguarded, and that their own behaviour is guided by this duty of care both within and beyond the education and care setting. Professional boundaries Education and care professions rely on the fostering of positive relationships between adults and children and young people. Learning and care settings are places where all staff can have significant influence in the lives of children and young people because the relationship involves regular contact over relatively long periods of time. These features of education and care professions make it extremely important that staff understand how to foster positive relationships in ways that do not compromise children and young people s welfare. The professional boundaries outlined in these guidelines apply beyond specific education or care sites and beyond specific cohorts of children and young people. For example, where staff are participating or have participated in interschool sport events or combined school trips or camps, they are expected to respect professional boundaries with all the children and young people involved in those activities. The following examples will assist staff in establishing and maintaining expected boundaries. This list is not exhaustive. Boundary Communication Personal disclosure Example of violation Inappropriate comments about a child/young person s appearance, including excessive flattering comments Inappropriate conversation or enquiries of a sexual nature (eg questions about a child or young person s sexuality or his/her sexual relationship with others) Disrespectful or discriminatory treatment of, or manner towards, young people based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation Use of inappropriate pet names Vilification or humiliation Jokes or innuendo of a sexual nature Obscene gestures and language Facilitating/permitting access to pornographic material Facilitating/permitting access to sexually explicit material that is not part of endorsed curriculum Failing to intervene in sexual harassment of children and young people Correspondence of a personal nature via any medium (eg phone, text message, letters, , internet postings) that is unrelated to the staff member s role. This does not include class cards/bereavement cards etc Discussing personal lifestyle details of self, other staff or children and young people unless directly relevant to the learning topic and with the individual s consent
10 9 Boundary Physical contact Place Targeting individual children and young people Role Possessions Example of violation Unwarranted or unwanted touching of a child or young person personally or with objects (eg pencil or ruler) Corporal punishment (physical discipline, smacking etc) Initiating, permitting or requesting inappropriate or unnecessary physical contact with a child or young person (eg massage, kisses, tickling games) or facilitating situations which unnecessarily result in close physical contact with a child or young person Inappropriate use of physical restraint (see p 18) *Inviting/allowing/encouraging children and young people to attend the staff member s home (see p 11 country/local community considerations) Allowing children and young people access to a staff member s personal internet locations (eg social networking sites) *Attending children and young people s homes or their social gatherings *Being alone with a child or young person outside of a staff member s responsibilities Entering change rooms or toilets occupied by children or young people when supervision is not required or appropriate *Transporting a child or young person unaccompanied Using toilet facilities allocated to children and young people Undressing using facilities set aside for children and young people, or in their presence (*without the site leader s authority) Tutoring (outside education sector s directions or knowledge) Giving personal gifts or special favours Singling the same children and young people out for special duties or responsibilities Offering overnight/weekend/holiday care of children and young people as respite to parents (unless a family day care educator, or employed by a respite organisation and with the site leader s knowledge) Adopting an ongoing welfare role that is beyond the scope of their position or that is the responsibility of another staff member (eg a counsellor) or an external professional, and that occurs without the permission of senior staff Photographing, audio recording or filming children or young people via any medium when not authorised by the site leader to do so and without required parental consent Using personal rather than school equipment for approved activities, unless authorised by the site leader to do so Correspondence or communication (via any medium) to or from children and young people where a violation of professional boundaries is indicated and where the correspondence has not been provided to the site leader by the staff member Still/moving images or audio recordings of children and young people on personal equipment or kept in personal locations such as car or home that have not been authorised by the site leader Uploading or publishing still/moving images or audio recordings of children and young people to any location, without parental and site leader s consent Professional boundary violations by a staff member represent a breach of trust, a failure to meet a duty of care to children and young people, and a failure to follow conduct requirements of the employer. When staff violate boundaries they risk: harmful consequences for the child or young person seriously undermining the learning process seriously undermining their professional reputation and the confidence of the education or care community in their suitability to work with children and young people formal directions or other disciplinary action from their employer or registering/regulating authority. Any concern a staff member has about whether a situation may compromise or breach a professional relationship should be discussed with the site leader and an approved plan of action developed and followed.
11 10 Legislation Staff conduct representing a breach of legislation includes: child abuse and neglect, defined in the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) illegal behaviours defined in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA)* sexual harassment defined in the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) and Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). Sexual relationships between legally consenting adults where a staff student relationship once existed Staff should be aware that where a relationship develops with an ex-student, their employer is entitled to consider whether their actions suggest an abuse of their position as a staff member. Where there is a reasonable belief that the emotional intimacy of the relationship developed while the staff student relationship existed, a judgment that abuse of their position has occurred is likely. What are significant in staff student relationships are the differences in authority and power held by the staff member and levels of trust held by the student. These differences do not suddenly disappear at a specific point in time. They linger as an imbalance between the two individuals and as a potential impediment to their capacity to make decisions in their own and others best interests. The following questions may assist staff in recognising when professional and/or legal boundaries are at risk of being breached: Am I dealing in a different manner with a particular child or young person than with others under the same circumstances? Is my dress/availability/language/demeanor different from the normal with a particular child or young person? Would I modify my behaviour with a child or young person if a colleague were present? Would I judge my conduct negatively if I observed it in another adult? Is it possible that the consequences of my actions will have negative outcomes for children and young people? Is it possible that the consequences of my actions will negatively affect people s confidence in my suitability to work with children and young people? If an honest answer to any of the above questions is yes then a staff member must alter his/her behaviour immediately and consider seeking professional support or counsel. Consequently, staff can not assume they will be protected from disciplinary action taken by their employer or registering/regulating authority because a relationship is claimed to have begun after the school term concluded or after exams finished. The length of time between the conclusion of the staff student relationship and the beginning of an intimate relationship is only one of a number of critical factors employers or registering/regulating authorities will take into consideration when judging the appropriateness of a staff member s conduct. Other significant factors include: the age difference between the staff member and the ex-student the developmental capacity of the ex-student the vulnerability of the ex-student evidence of the nature of the relationship while the staff student relationship existed other concerns or allegations regarding the staff member s conduct. * Staff should be aware that unlawful sexual intercourse where an individual holds a position of authority over the other involves a higher age of consent (18 years) than where no authority relationship exists (17 years).
12 11 Guidance for staff in managing professional boundaries Working in country/local communities Staff working in country or local communities face additional challenges in managing professional boundaries. They are more likely to have social relationships with the parents of the children and young people with whom they work and are, therefore, more likely to share social and sporting events or membership at various community clubs or associations. This means they will have legitimate reasons, on occasions, to attend social events with the children and young people with whom they work, to visit their homes or to be visited by them in the company of their parents. These social engagements are an important part of community life and a positive contribution to the wellbeing of staff working in country and local communities. Following the advice below will assist staff to enjoy these social engagements without compromising their professional responsibilities. The guiding principles in managing these situations are that: social contact should be generated via the relationship the staff member has with the parents of children and young people or by an event (such as a sporting event) staff should avoid being alone with children and young people in these situations staff should conduct themselves in a way that will not give others reason to question their suitability to work with children and young people and that will not create discomfort for children and young people in their learning relationship with them. Consuming alcohol in these situations may lessen a staff member s capacity to judge when a professional boundary is at risk staff should politely refuse to discuss matters relating to the workplace and should not discuss children and young people s learning or social progress other than at times specifically set aside for that purpose any concern a staff member has about whether or not a situation may be compromising or breaching a professional relationship should be discussed with the site leader and an approved plan of action followed. For example, a staff member may want advice about transporting a friend s child to and from the site or how to manage his/her own child s enrolment at the site. Using social networking sites Staff in education and care settings are expected to model responsible and respectful conduct to the children and young people with whom they work. Staff need to consider the electronic social environments they utilise as part of this community and employer expectation. The internet does not provide the privacy or control assumed by many users. Staff must appreciate that no matter what protections they place around access to their personal sites their digital postings are still at risk of reaching an unintended audience and being used in ways that could complicate or threaten their employment. Staff should be aware of the following expectations in considering their use of social networking sites: they have considered the information and images of them available on their sites and are confident that these represent them in a light acceptable to their role in working with children and young people they do not have children or young people in their education community as friends on their personal/private sites comments on their site about their workplace, work colleagues or children or young people, if published, would not cause hurt or embarrassment to others, risk claims of libel, or harm the reputation of the workplace, their colleagues or children and young people. Working one-to-one with children and young people The following summary of expectations applies to all situations where staff (teachers, support staff, professional service providers, counsellors, pastoral care providers, mentors, volunteers etc) are providing one-to-one learning assistance or feedback, behaviour assistance/monitoring, counsel, testing or assessment. Make it public The more visible, public and busy the location the better Use the site s authorised IT systems. Do not use personal or websites to communicate with children and young people Make it authorised Parents should be informed/ give consent Activity must be authorised by the site leader Make it timely As far as possible, provide support during normal work hours, and do not conduct excessively long sessions
13 12 Managing privacy expectations Counsellors, pastoral care coordinators, health providers and various professional service providers rely in different ways on being able to provide a degree of privacy for children and young people. This may be to protect the child or young person s dignity, to provide an environment conducive to the service/assessment being provided or to respect the child or young person s desire for confidentiality. Children and young people will often assume a high level of confidentiality when disclosing serious issues of a personal nature or reporting harassment or bullying. For these reasons, schools need to find a careful balance between, on the one hand, respecting the sensitive and private nature of counselling or service provision and, on the other hand, the professional s duty of care obligations for the safety and wellbeing of the child or young person. Good practice in managing these circumstances is the following: health/physical care should be provided with respect for the child or young person s dignity and in a manner approved by the child or young person and his/her parents counselling should be provided in unlocked rooms with part-glass doors (where possible) that are located near staff traffic areas avoid out of hours contact while parental consent is often not applicable in many counselling situations, best practice for schools is to provide all parents with written information about the school s counselling and pastoral care services which outlines confidentiality and privacy issues ensure student appointments and counselling notes are documented appropriately. Conducting home visits Staff must ensure they follow the specific home visiting protocols that apply to their sector or service. The key principle is that a home visit should place no one at unreasonable risk and that identified minor risks are consciously managed. A summary of general expectations is provided below. Inform Prepare Protect Home visits must be authorised and documented by the site leadership and the site must have information about when and where visits are being undertaken and the expected return times All available information about the safety of the proposed visit must be considered and risks managed Mobile phones must be taken, ID should be visible Inform parents of intended visit, where appropriate Do not enter the house if parents are not at home Speak with the student where the parent is present or clearly visible: do not interview students in their bedrooms Have a colleague accompany if problems are anticipated Document the visit
14 13 Family day care The provision of family day care is unique. Unlike other education and care environments, the family day care educator does not have access to professional support or supervision on site. Given the relative isolation of family day care educators from immediate access to staff support, these guidelines play an important role in assisting them to recognise and avoid the circumstances that might place them, members of their own family or the children and young people they care for, at risk. The guidelines, therefore, contribute to family day care being a positive and productive experience for all involved children, young people, parents and educators. As outlined on p 6, family day care educators should interpret references to site leader to be those circumstances where they would consult with or, under conditions of approval, report to and take direction from the family day care coordinator. The use of the term staff is to be seen as inclusive of family day care educators. Some guidance in this document, such as avoiding being alone with children and young people or restrictions when working one-to-one with them, is inapplicable in the family day care setting. However, the rest of the guidance is applicable, most notably the advice covering appropriate physical contact, responding to inappropriate behaviour in children and in adults, using social network sites, non-physical interventions and the examples of professional boundary violations. Boarding houses Staff working in boarding houses face particular challenges in providing a home-like environment for children and young people in ways that do not compromise their professional boundaries or the welfare of children and young people. Boarding houses should be relatively informal environments and ones where children and young people can receive respectful guidance and support from the adults in whose care they are placed. While this clearly involves the development of caring, and sometimes close, friendships it does not remove the staff member s responsibility to work within all the professional boundaries outlined in these guidelines and to follow its best practice advice. The guidance on managing privacy, working one-to-one, appropriate physical contact, responding to inappropriate sexual behaviour (in children or in adults), using social network sites, non-physical interventions and the examples of professional boundary violations are all particularly pertinent to boarding house staff. Following these guidelines will support the important role boarding house staff play in the wellbeing of children and young people and enhance the respectful relationships that should exist between children and young people and adults sharing a home away from home. Staff in education and care settings are responsible for taking action if they become aware that other adults are acting inappropriately with children and young people. The family day care educator carries this same responsibility with regard to the conduct of other adults sharing or visiting the home environment while children and young people are in their care.
15 14 Staff responsibilities in responding to behaviour Behaviour of staff towards children and young people Suspected child abuse Staff in education and care settings are mandated notifiers and are, therefore, required under the Children s Protection Act 1993 to report suspected child abuse to the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) on A report of suspected abuse must be made to CARL irrespective of who is implicated: a colleague, friend, senior staff member, volunteer, parent, visitor or other child or young person. The report must be made in consultation with the site leader who signs the site s mandatory notification record and stores it securely. Working with the site leader ensures that appropriate procedures can be followed within the site and sector office. Such procedures are designed to ensure that children and young people s wellbeing is safeguarded and that staff members rights are respected. If the site leader is the subject of the suspicion, observation or allegation, staff must report to the site leader s line manager, employer or appropriate central office personnel. The complexities of these situations are acknowledged. Nevertheless, staff must manage their sensitivities or discomforts because their duty of care to the child or young person remains their paramount legal, professional and moral responsibility. Inappropriate behaviour Staff may also observe behaviours in other adults that they view to be inappropriate rather than abusive or that sit on the border of violating a professional boundary. Staff must ensure, through their site leader, that the adult concerned is made aware of the potential of his/her actions to impact negatively on children and young people, and on themselves. Professional advice of this kind may be particularly valuable to young or newly appointed staff. The site leader should document what is discussed. All staff must take action if children and young people disclose information about inappropriate behaviours of other adults on the site. It is not acceptable to minimise, ignore or delay responding to such information. For the wellbeing of all members of the education or care community, the site leader must be informed as a matter of urgency and a report made to the Child Abuse Report Line, if appropriate. Behaviour of children and young people towards staff Should a child or young person engage in inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature, then immediate respectful steps must be taken to discourage the child or young person. The matter should be reported and documented promptly with the site leader and a plan of action developed to support the child or young person and relevant staff member. Depending on the age/developmental capacity of the child or young person and contextual information, this plan of support may involve: communication with parents referral to and liaison with specialist counselling formalised support within the site, which may include closer monitoring or supervision of the child or young person in his/her interactions with other children and young people referral to and liaison with an appropriate agency with disability-specific expertise. Sometimes, the inappropriate sexual behaviour of younger children towards staff can elicit a suspicion that the child in question has been sexually abused. In these situations, staff must: make a mandatory notification to the Child Abuse Report Line on consider the safety of other children and young people with whom the child has contact develop and document a plan of action and communication with all relevant parties (including other agencies). Some children and young people may actively seek a relationship with a staff member that would constitute an inappropriate relationship. In such circumstances, staff are advised to immediately report the information to the site leader and seek assistance from a senior staff member, school counsellor or pastoral care coordinator to actively manage the situation in a way that respects the emotional wellbeing of the child or young person and provides support to the staff member.
16 15 Examples of behaviours that should be reported and addressed are: receiving gifts of an inappropriate nature or at inappropriate times (eg not as part of end of the year gift giving that some children and families follow) flirtatious gestures and comments inappropriate social invitations inappropriate touching or invasions of personal space inappropriate postings using any medium correspondence or communication that suggests or invites an inappropriate relationship. The staff member and site leader should document the incident that initially prompted the concern and the plan of action that has been established. Contact with parents is recommended unless there are reasonable grounds to believe that this will create serious risks for the child or young person. Sexual harassment via any medium* at any time or place or assault of a staff member by a child or young person should be dealt with following normal behaviour management protocols, with the involvement of parents and, where appropriate, police. Along with this response, consideration must also be given to the most appropriate counselling and support that can be provided to the child or young person and family. It is important to use these incidents as opportunities to organise meaningful interventions that address early sexual and other offending behaviours. Detailed guidance on managing problem sexual behaviours in children and young people is available in the document Responding to problem sexual behaviour in children and young people Guidelines for staff in education and care settings (DECS 2010). Resources associated with the guidelines are available on the Department of Education and Children s Services and Catholic Education websites. * Includes postings on websites, whether private or not.
17 16 Appropriate physical contact Appropriate physical contact by a staff member to assist or encourage a child or young person At times, staff will be required to give practical assistance to a child or young person who is hurt or needs particular assistance or encouragement. Examples of appropriate physical contact are: administration of first aid supporting children and young people who have hurt themselves assisting with the toileting and personal care needs of a disabled child or young person (an individual plan for children and young people with these needs must have been negotiated with parents) non-intrusive gestures to comfort a child or young person who is experiencing grief and loss or distress, such as a hand on the upper arm or upper back non-intrusive touch (eg congratulating a child or young person by shaking hands or a pat on the upper arm or back). Staff should remember the importance of accompanying such touch with positive and encouraging words. Good practice with school-age children and young people Seek children and young people s permission to touch (keeping in mind that a highly distressed child or young person may be incapable of expressing their wishes). Avoid being with a child or young person in a one-to-one, out of sight situation, and never touch a child or young person in such a situation. Do not presume that physical contact is acceptable to a particular child or young person. Even non-intrusive touch may be inappropriate if a child or young person indicates he/she does not wish to be touched. Respect and respond to signs that a child or young person is uncomfortable with touch. Use verbal directions rather than touch (eg ask a child or young person to move in a particular way, rather than physically place the child or young person in the required position). Use the above approach for demonstrations in dance, sport, music and drama. Where touch is essential for safety reasons (eg with aquatic or gymnastic instruction), always tell the child or young person that you need to hold him/her in a particular way and seek his/her permission to do so. In some circumstances, staff may need to discourage younger children from inappropriate expectations of hugs or cuddles. This should be done gently and without embarrassment or offence to the child. Good practice with children, birth to school age Staff working in preschools and care settings are often involved in toileting children, changing their clothes and comforting them for a range of distresses normal in the preschool age group. In providing such care, staff should be aware of the following good practice: When children indicate they want comfort, ensure that it is provided in a public setting and that it is in keeping with the guidelines provided above. Signs of discomfort in children such as stiffening, pulling away or walking away must be respected. In these situations the child must continue to be observed/ monitored until his/her distress is managed. Children must not be left in states of high distress for long periods. Parents need to be contacted under these circumstances. Staff should follow the site s toileting and nappy changing policy and individual toileting plans where these have been documented with parents. In two staff centres, it is important that formalised plans for responding to critical toileting situations and other challenging behaviours are understood by staff and parents.
18 17 Non-physical intervention in managing behaviour Non-physical intervention is the recognised means of managing the behaviour of children and young people. Where a problem with a child or young person s behaviour becomes apparent, non-physical interventions include: directing other children and young people to move away from the situation talking with the individual child or young person (asking the child or young person to stop the behaviour, and telling the child or young person what will happen if he/she does not stop) directing the child or young person to a safe place directing other children and young people to a safe place following the emergency plan in two staff centres sending for assistance from other staff, or in extreme cases, the police. Use of verbal directions is always preferred to physical intervention. It is not appropriate to make physical contact with a child or young person (eg pushing, grabbing, poking, pulling, blocking) in order to ensure they comply with directions. Staff working with preschool-age children must not hold children against their will (eg on their laps, between their legs or on the floor) to ensure attention at group time. Under no circumstances should staff engage in any form of conduct which might cause physical or emotional harm to children and young people. Physical restraint where a child or young person s or adult s safety is threatened Staff may make legitimate use of physical restraint if all non-physical interventions have been exhausted or are impossible in the circumstances and a child or young person is: attacking another child or young person or adult posing an immediate danger to him/herself or others. Use of appropriate physical force may be permitted to ensure that the employer s duty of care to protect children and young people and staff from foreseeable risks of injury is met. Common law defences such as self-defence and defence of others remain legitimate reasons for the use of physical restraint. All people have the right to defend themselves against an attack provided they do not use a disproportionate degree of force to do so. It may be a valid decision for staff not to use physical restraint in a situation involving several children and young people, or a physically larger child or young person, where staff believe that doing so would increase the likelihood of injury to themselves. In such cases, the staff member should shepherd other children and young people away from danger and seek immediate help from other staff or police. Staff are not expected to place their own safety at risk in responding to violence or aggression in others and are supported by Workplace Health and Safety legislation in making this judgment. Safe practice when using physical restraint The use of restraint with a child or young person in situations where the safety of others is threatened is to prevent injury. The restraint must be reasonable in the particular circumstances and must be in proportion to the circumstances of the incident. It must always be the minimum force needed to achieve the desired result, and take into account the age, stature, disability, understanding and gender of the child or young person. For example, if restraining a female, care should be taken to avoid contact with breasts. Parents should be informed at enrolment of the site s policy on physical restraint with children and young people and staff who may be expected to use physical restraint should access appropriate training. Staff are to use physical restraint only as a last resort and not as a response to: property destruction disruption to the education or care activity refusal to comply verbal threats leaving a classroom or the school a need to maintain good order unless someone s safety is clearly threatened.
19 18 Do Continue talking with the child or young person throughout the incident. Make clear that physical restraint will stop when it ceases to be necessary to protect the child or young person or others. Grip clothing rather than the body, whenever possible. Document incidents promptly and keep these records with the site leader. The record should include: the name of involved children and young people location of incident name of witnesses (staff and/or children and young people) incident outline (including the child or young person s behaviour, what was said, steps taken, degree of force applied and how applied, reasoning for actions taken) child or young person s response and the outcome details of any injury or damage to property. Inform parents promptly and fully of any incident involving the physical restraint of their child and provide them with the opportunity to discuss the matter at the time they are informed. Ensure sector specific guidelines regarding other forms of documentation are followed, for example critical incident forms. Provide/offer confidential debriefing, counselling support and Workplace Health and Safety documentation to all staff involved in incidents of restraint. Don t Don t use restraint that involves: force applied to the head or neck restrictions to breathing punching kicking holding by the hair or ear confining a child or young person in a locked room or limited space placing children under school age in time out or time away.
20 19 Working with children and young people with additional needs or disabilities All sections of this document require careful interpretation when applied to children and young people with additional needs or disabilities. For example, children and young people with intellectual disabilities may engage in a much wider range of physical and overtly sexual behaviours towards staff and other children and young people as a result of their disability. Similarly, staff will need to engage more often in physical contact and touch with these children and young people as a means of meeting their duty of care to them. In fact, touch itself may be an agreed form of communication between a child or young person, his/her parent and staff where the child or young person has a communication disability. Children and young people with disorders causing violent and unpredictable behaviours are likely to have formalised restraint procedures agreed to by staff and parents/carers. Toileting assistance or processes for changing clothes will be necessities for some children and young people. Because of these differences, staff need to be more vigilant and thoughtful in their physical interactions with children and young people with additional needs or disabilities. Children and young people with disabilities are over-represented in the child protection system. Their vulnerabilities mean they have an increased reliance on the adults providing their care to protect them from harm. Immediately reporting any inappropriate behaviour towards children and young people from other adults is a critical obligation of staff and one that must not be delayed, minimised or delegated (see Staff responsibilities in responding to behaviour ). Education and care staff support children and young people with disabilities or special needs through various forms of individual plans. The common features of these plans are that they involve all people who deal with the child or young person on a regular basis, including other service providers, and they document the agreed strategies that are to be used in supporting the child or young person. These plans are particularly important when challenging behaviours, personal care and hygiene and special physical considerations are an issue at the site (eg toileting, transport within and beyond the site environment, situations where physical restraint is occasionally required). The possibility of restraint and the nature of that restraint for children and young people should be addressed in the individual plan as should alternative strategies for preventing harm to others. The plan process should involve the child or young person as far as possible. Staff likely to need to use physical restraint should access training specific to that requirement. It is appropriate that different approaches are likely to be needed from staff in their interactions with children and young people with special needs or disabilities. For this reason, site behaviour codes or behaviour management policies need regular reviewing to ensure they reflect the needs of the children and young people accessing the site at any one time. Nevertheless, the basic principles outlined elsewhere in this document remain applicable to all children and young people. Staff have a duty of care to protect children and young people from physical and emotional harm and, while the ways of meeting the duty may differ for different groups, the duty itself remains unqualified. Staff are expected to meet this duty in a manner that respects the dignity of all children and young people as well as their vulnerabilities.
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